TUESDAY night, York sci-fi surrealist artist Lincoln Lightfoot had just finished his latest piece…depicting the abduction of the sycamore tree on Hadrian’s Wall. The very next night, the tree was felled, a new gap cut into the Sycamore Gap landscape. Not so much Unidentified Flying Object as Unidentified Felling Object.
“As text messages flooded my phone to inform me of the news, I felt great sadness but was also a little spooked by the coincidence,” says Lincoln, 31. “I don’t think I would have drawn it if I’d known what was about to happen!” he commented on Facebook.
Although his Fifties’ B-movie poster-inspired artwork – full of dinosaurs, aliens, spacemen, King Kong and creatures from the deep – had begun with encounters of the unexpected at landmark buildings and locations in his adopted city of York, it had since branched out into his native North East.
“I have a great love for the north of England and was brought up and studied there,” says Lincoln. “I take part in many art events at the Baltic, Gateshead, sell art at the Crafter Roadshow and Tynemouth Markets and recently completed a mural in HMV in the MetroCentre.
HMV store manager Steve Mason, who collects Lincoln’s work, suggested his next subject matter. “He informed me that a ‘must-see’ is Sycamore Gap and that I NEED to create some work featuring the lonely sycamore tree ‘up there’,” recalls Lincoln.
He duly spent two weeks researching the place. “As it was such an iconic landmark [featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves], I decided to do two pieces instead of one,” he says.
“The first featured two Brachiosaurus dinosaurs grazing in the gap with a cheeky one munching on a sycamore branch in the foreground. The second, an alien abduction of the tree, using symmetry and the renowned U-shape view.
“Upon completion, I posted a reel of my process on Instagram entitled it ‘No More Sycamore’ and sat back to embrace the dopamine from a job well done.”
The next day Lincoln posted the final image online. “Little did I know, that very night the tree would be felled. As I began my next piece ‘IT Came from Beneath the Wear!’, I received the first of many messages,” he says.
“It was from Steve. It read, ‘last night’ and below was a news article. I just couldn’t believe it! As the day went on, more messages piled in. ‘Have you seen the news?’. ‘Reminds me of your latest piece’, etc.
“Comments on my social media posts too: ‘Could you post the lottery numbers next?’. ‘Suspicious’. ‘You work fast’, etc.”
Initially saddened and angered by the news, the weird timing had Lincoln over-thinking. “Do I change the title of my post to something more respectful? Do I go as far as to take the post down? Has it lost its well-intended humour?” he asked himself. “My partner went as far as to think I may be considered a suspect!
“Geordie friends flooded social media with heartfelt messages and stories. I decided that like my many prior works, the artwork may remind people of the place and fond memories there.
“I would hope that it may even help people deal with the loss of the tree in a comical and uplifting way.”
Meanwhile, police investigations into the Sycamore Gap “chainsaw massacre” are on-going. Watch that space.